Fetterman’s marijuana tour stop in Greensburg draws large, divided crowd
More than 200 people filled the Greensburg Garden and Civic Center Monday night to voice their opinion on legalizing marijuana.
Lt. Gov. John Fetterman was in town for the latest stop on his marijuana listening tour. He plans to visit all 67 Pennsylvania counties to gather data on public sentiment regarding marijuana.
Of the 44 attendees who spoke during the meeting, 27 supported legalizing recreational marijuana, 15 opposed it and two said they were undecided on the issue.
Arguments on both sides drew loud applause from the crowd.
Fetterman was joined onstage by State Sen. Jim Brewster, D-McKeesport; State Sen. Patrick Stefano, R-Bullskin; State Rep. Eric Nelson, R-Hempfield; and Westmoreland County Commissioner Ted Kopas.
The politicians didn’t do much talking, quickly ceding the floor to the long line of attendees who were lined up to speak.
“Tonight’s not about me. Tonight’s about being able to hear and listen to your opinions,” Nelson said.
Kopas described the meeting as an example of participatory democracy and described himself as “decidedly undecided” on the issue of recreational marijuana. Those for and against legalization often approached the same talking points from very different angles.
Proponents touted the health benefits of the drug, while opponents emphasized its health risks.
Those in favor saw marijuana as a safer alternative to opioids, while those opposed said it is a gateway drug that will lead to more addiction.
Regina Chicka of Salem Township said she used to smoke pot in the 1960s, and wants to legally return to marijuana as a way to ease her chronic pain.
“I got away from it for a while, and I want to come back so much,” she said. “I’d like it to be legalized, because I’d like to take care of my pain.”
Patti Luise of Washington Township said she was “unequivocally” opposed to legalization.
“Why are we saying this should be legalized, when it is blatantly, widely known that it causes psychosis?” she asked.
Frank Colaizzi of Washington Township agreed.
“There is no other reason to have another substance that is going to affect the population,” he said. “It’s nothing more than money, that’s what it is. And power.”
Ligonier resident Brian Roberts said this is the second of Fetterman’s listening sessions he’s attended. He went to one in Cambria County because he was curious to see what people thought about marijuana.
“I’m just interested to see how many are for, and how many are against,” he said “I just think it causes more of a problem being illegal.”
At the end of the meeting, Fetterman asked those in the crowd for a show of hands to see who was for or against legalizing recreational marijuana.
A majority raised their hands in favor.
Fetterman said he has yet to see a crowd strongly opposed to legalization. Some were close to a 50-50 split, particularly Greene and Wayne counties, while some were overwhelmingly in favor of legalization, including Dauphin County.
He said the tour stops have given people a chance to express opposing viewpoints without discourse turning hostile.
“People are civil, participatory, and it was another great event,” he said.
He said the tour has proven the effectiveness of the state’s medical marijuana program.
“There’s near-universal support for medical marijuana” he said. “The legislature has done a really good job.”
Several of those who spoke against full marijuana legalization at Monday’s meeting were in favor of medical marijuana, though some said they were opposed to legal pot of any kind.
Fetterman’s next stop is Penn State Fayette at 6 p.m. Tuesday, followed by North Star High School in Boswell, Somerset County Thursday.
Jacob Tierney is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Jacob at 724-836-6646, [email protected] or via Twitter .